Are Most People Deficient In Omega-3? (No. Don’t Let People Convince You To Take Fish Oil)

One of the Medical Industry Conglomerates in my area sent out a booklet on how to stay healthy. There are nice photographs of peppers and pears and pumpkins and pretty people exercising scattered throughout along with fear-inducing articles that encourage people to get tests, scans, and treatments at, of course, the Conglomerate’s facilities.

And there was this. A feature called “Ask The Doctor” that addressed dietary supplement use. The doctor is a cardiologist at one of the Conglomerate’s hospitals:

Q. Are there any supplements you recommend to all your patients?

A. Most people are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids which directly affect heart health. I often recommend an omega-3 fish oil supplement to patients who don’t eat fish regularly.

Is that true? Are most people deficient in omega-3 fatty acids?

Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) says. They are the group responsible for establishing the Dietary Reference Intakes, the RDAs. If anyone knows about Americans’ deficiency states, it’s the IOM:

An AI* is set for alpha-linolenic acid based on median intakes in the United States where an n-3 fatty acid deficiency is nonexistent in healthy individuals. The AI is 1.6 and 1.1 g/d for men and women, respectively. … Intake levels much lower than the AI occur in the United States without the presence of deficiency.

*AI: Adequate Intake

Americans are not deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. This doctor didn’t say 1-in-4, or 30%, or some other prevalence number. She said “most.” That’s over half of Americans. That is a phenomenal number. The gap between her number and the IOM’s is so large I can’t fathom how she comes up with it.

In this country, doctors have the soap box when it comes to nutritional advice. People believe them. Most doctors, however, do not have the nutrition education to back up their advice. That can lead to harm, as this case demonstrates.

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No One Should Be Taking Fish Oil

In my opinion, no one should be taking fish oil:

1. First, all fish oil is rancid. You just cannot extract this stuff from marine life without it being exposed to air (oxygen), heat, light, radiation, and other things that cause oxidation and rancidity. Some will be more rancid than others, but it’s all rancid.

2. Second, all fish oil contains mercury. LabDoor tested the 30 best-selling fish oil supplements in the US and every one of them contained mercury (update: top 51 supplements all contain mercury), some at dangerously high levels.

3.Third, because dietary supplements aren’t regulated, fish oil pills often contain either less or more omega-3 than is stated on the label. LabDoor found just that. So, you’re either paying for something that isn’t there, or you’re paying for a dose that could give you a stroke. I’m not making that last bit up. LabDoor found EPA and DHA content ranging from -50.7% to +90.2% compared to the label. Too much omega-3 increases the risk for bleeding and stroke.

4. Forth, fish oil pills can contain undesirable, possibly harmful, flavors, fillers, or preservatives. LabDoor: “One product, Coromega Omega-3, also contained benzoic acid, a popular antibacterial agent linked to carcinogenic risks when combined with vitamin C.”

5. Fifth, and the real clincher for me, fish oils pills have been linked to insulin resistance, cancer, especially prostate cancer, and shorter life. I blog about it often. Some studies:

Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, July 2013

“Conclusions: This study confirms previous reports of increased prostate cancer risk among men with high blood concentrations of [long-chain omega-3]-PUFA. The consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis. Recommendations to increase LCω-3PUFA intake should consider its potential risks.”

Dietary Supplementation With Lovaza And Krill Oil Shortens The Life Span Of Long-Lived F1 Mice, Age, June 2014

Lovaza/Omacor* and/or krill oil:

  • Significantly shortened life span.
  • Increased the number of enlarged seminal vesicles (7.1-fold).
  • Significantly increased lung tumors (4.1- and 8.2-fold).
  • Increased levels of blood urea nitrogen, bilirubin, triglycerides, and blood glucose.

Doses of krill oil and Lovaza consistent with those recommended for human use decreased the life span of healthy mice. In light of the current uncertainties regarding the efficacy of purified marine oils in treating human diseases, our results do not support their use to increase health or life span.

The authors say that the mice died of either heavy bleeding or lung tumors, both a result of the effects of fish oil, not any possible toxins in the fish oil.

* These are concentrated and highly purified forms of fish oil approved as drugs by the FDA for treatment of hyperlipidemia.

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There’s also this: Fish Oil Claims Not Supported by Research, New York Times, March 2015

Do you think this doctor tells her patients any of this? Do you think she even knows?

The pièce de résistance is that she recommends pricy prescription fish oil. Here’s a doctor who, to use Ryan Lochte’s term, “over-exaggerates” the prevalence of a condition and uses this inflation to send people back to the same Conglomerate that pays her salary … to get that prescription and to purchase that therapy.

The best way to improve heart health is to eat a low-fat, animal-food-free diet, to exercise, to get enough sleep, to laugh more. Don’t abuse drugs and alcohol. Don’t smoke. Use your talents to help people. Find pleasure in small things. There is no pill in the world that will make you as healthy as these things.

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